Sunday, March 21, 2010

IPL 3 – Mumbai Indians vs Rajasthan Royals.

An out of the blue 30 min Sametime chat in office amongst us, the cricket fans, and in no more than 4 hours, 10 IPL tickets were booked for Mumbai Indians vs Rajasthan Royals game. Please, pause and gauge the enormity of accomplishing such a task - getting 10 people to agree to watch an IPL match (without prior notice) not in Pune but Mumbai (which means travelling to a different city) and when 4 of the 10 are girls who wouldn’t watch a full 4 hour innings on telly leave alone travelling to the stadium for that purpose (No offense here ladies, it is just that you know a very few girls are that enthusiastic about any sport as the boys ), then I consider it really lucky to be in such sporting company!

Well once the ticket bookings were done – the office and in-transit chats begun in full swing with everyone dreaming of the big day. Everyday was new topic - what to wear, ways to travel, etc etc. In a couple of days, it was mutually agreed to travel to Mumbai in a train and everything was all set!

The day before

It got big as the match weekend approached. Friends and colleagues, who knew I was going to the IPLs came to my cube all day long with a big smile and constantly reminded me – Awesome dude, we are envious and you’re gonna have one great weekend and stuff. Statements like these got me all the more pumped up about next day’s MI vs RR clash. I mean, C’mon, who wouldn’t be – just the legendary names – Tendulkar, Warne, Jayasuriya, Malinga, Graeme Smith would be enough to get any cricket fan dizzied.
No wonder, the night before, I couldn’t sleep with the adrenaline rush of seeing Sachin and Warnie live at Brabourne, Mumbai.

Match day – 13th March, 2010.

Yogesh, Neha, Hemant, Asawari and I were the first to touch Pune Railway station at 715 am in the morning. Our Pragati express AC chair car was at the Platform within a couple of mins of us reaching there. The AC coach was a bit of a disappointment – we had expected a cleaner and beautiful AC Chair car compartment. Well – it didn’t worry us more than the fact that rest of our group was still en route to the station. Finally everyone turned up just before the scheduled departure time much to our relief. The train journey was over in a jiffy, courtesy – Yogesh and his fantastic PJs (note this is a Hyperbole).
The hot and humid weather of Mumbai welcomed us at CST. A short cab ride to Churchgate, a quick but good lunch at the famous Satkar restaurant and we were ready for the couple mins walk to Brabourne Stadium.

As we walked by the stadium to Gate 12, we could see crazy fans like us lining up at the North Stand entrance. Security was huge and I mean really ‘huge’. Had to be…Police, Army, Private security, you name it. Gate 12, our entrance into the stadium had 100 odd fans waiting to get in. There was a fault in one of the metal detectors or something and hence we were kept waiting in the hot sun. The frustrated crowd got impatient and rightly so. Finally after 20 mins or so we were asked to go in. I couldn’t think of anything but running even when I had a ticket with a seat number in my hand. The excitement to go inside was such that I nearly ran through the metal detector where a burly security guy asked me to slow down! And, as it always happens, when you are in a hurry – there are things that try to slow you down. In my case, the bar code reader was not working! After a couple of attempts, the bar code reader beeped to life and I was a free man! Free man to enter the crazy live world of IPL. Again, Prashant and I ran like hell to West Lower Block entrance. The other 8 were behind us but the excitement got the better of us and we were inside the beautiful Brabourne in just under 120 secs.

Then, I noticed an amazing thing - there were people in the stadium, guiding everyone to their seats like stewards at the cinemas! I had never seen such a thing in a cricket stadium in India before. Instantly, I got a feeling that this was gonna be a well managed event.

Our seats were at a perfect height and along the middle aisle of the West stand. However the best part was that we were in shade and the scorching sun had already crossed our part of the stand. The cheerleaders’ stand was to our left below (couldn’t help grin seeing that) and huge speakers were neatly decked up everywhere around the stadium. The outfield looked great and the Mumbai Indians’ logo was all over the stadium being their home ground.

It was about 1 pm. Two hours for the match to start. I was wondering how to spend the couple of hours in the stadium when my thoughts were broken by an awesomely familiar Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing and Chics for Free” riff! The DJ had started belting out the song and a feeling of excitement suddenly surged through me. Music and cricket…sorry, great music, superb music system and live cricket! What more can I ask for? Oh yes – babes and beer would seal the deal!....Well the babes/girls/ladies soon started streaming in as the minutes passed…. Beer – I could live without it for some hours. You don’t get everything you ask for. Innit? But beer would have been awesome! Okay Okay! Coming back to the topic…
About 2pm, we got a nearly full stand with 800-900 odd Tendulkar T-shirts. No surprises seeing it! The blue inflatable Mumbai Indians plastic balloons, the horns and the whistles were creating just enough noise …Umm, I would classify this as melodious/harmonious noise typical in a buzzing cricket stadium in India and enough to get any cricket fan excited. The DJ was playing some cool Bollywood and English stuff which got nearly everyone dancing. The shy ones were seen tapping their legs to the music. I couldn’t resist dancing and banging the inflatable balloons to add to the noise.

Amongst 1000 cricket fans in our stand, there was glamour worth ogling at :D. The lovely females were dancing to the music and enjoying the attention from behind their glares.

Players from both teams were practicing and stretching all over the ground. The RR team was near our stand and girls were eyeing Graeme Smith just as the guys were eyeing the girls. However, when a certain 200-dulkar walked across, there was a slight buzz in the ground and every eye in the stadium was on him.

I looked at the watch. It was 230 pm. WOW! Time sure does fly at an IPL match. The atmosphere in the stadium just before the match was enough for me to give full marks to Lalit Modi for such an amazing tournament.
Our stand was now choc-a-bloc. Not one seat was empty. I could see 10,000 MI fans everywhere and 2 RR ones in the crowd.


When Ian Bishop walked into the middle with the match referee and the 2 captains – Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne, the sense of excitement could grew as every spectator stood up. As the gold coin was tossed up it was seen by everyone in the ground as it shined in the afternoon sun. When Ian Bishop went to Sachin first with a mike, there was such a deafening roar from the crowd that even Sachin couldn’t hear what Ian was saying! It was as if Mumbai Indians had already won the match!
Not a word of what Sachin said was heard clearly by anyone in the noise! Prashant and I thought, MI elected to bowl and so did a few of the MI fans around us. Then the PA system cleared our doubts – MI had won the toss and elected to bat. Once again there was a huge roar across the stands.

Mumbai Indians - The First Innings

First ball - Jayasuriya started with a four to deep cover! The crowd went berserk with their horns and whistles. The second four by Jayasuriya in the same over and the crowd went mad. By now, everyone was standing. Even those who chose to sit couldn’t help coz their views were being blocked by all the mad crazy cricket fans of India. The third four by Jayasuriya and my throat was starting to hurt.
Second over - Crowd insane and the loudest even before a ball was bowled. Reason - Tendulkar on strike! The whole of Brabourne was chanting SACHIN SACHIN. The first ball was a four to square leg! I almost fell on the cute girl in front of me (Not on purpose…but then again, why didn’t I tumble on her?!)
Second ball to Sachin and it was a four again! This was a dream start! I stood up on my chair. People were already dancing in the aisles. My mobile was ringing. Friends knew I was at the ground and so were calling in to check out the atmosphere. I couldn’t hear a word. I just held out the mobile for them to have a listen to the crowd.

After a while, Sachin got out and the only sound on the ground was of the RR players celebrating! Soon Jayasuriya followed him and there were two new players at the crease – Tiwary and Rayadu. But this pair batted brilliantly and we were dancing, clapping, whistling and blowing our horns all the while. MI scored 212 from the 20. We couldn’t have asked for more!

The humid Mumbai weather and all the shouting and dancing had started taking its toll and we were hungry, thirsty and tired. The refreshment stalls outside were packed but well managed! Again, I was impressed to see that.

Rajasthan Royals - Second Innings

I thought we were we would be switching to “Sit down and watch” mode as the RR innings started. However a direct hit in the first over and the crowd were up like a jack in the boxes at the same instant!
At 40/3 ….RR looked nearly out of the game and MI heading for a comprehensive victory. But then, there was Pathan. And he isn’t called Butcher for nothing. For that day, I would call him an “Angry Butcher” coz what he did to the MI bowlers was merciless. 6,6,6,6,4 and so on. He seemed to be hitting sixes and fours at will. The crowd was stunned to say the least. Pathan kept hitting ball after ball to the boundary. If Pathan missed a ball, the crowd would celebrate but only too soon …coz we would see the outstretched arms of the umpire meaning a WIDE.
The big screen displayed Yusuf Pathan 65 off 24 balls and everybody gave each other shocked glances. Pathan continued his assault ball after ball and I literally mean ball after ball. The crowd that was silent was now confused coz what we were seeing was unbelievable. Pathan reached 100 in just 37 balls and the sporting crowd now gave him a standing ovation .

The only way Pathan could get Out was…. Well… as every cricket fan would know – Run Out. Pathan was on the non striker’s end when Dogra hit the ball and the bowler’s hand touched the ball on its way to the non striker’s stumps. The crowd got something to celebrate. The decision was referred to the Third Umpire. Every one in the ground stood up and focused on the big screen displaying the replay. People watched with bated breath as the replay slowed down to each frame of Pathan’s bat being slid into the crease. As the decisive frame was about to be shown, an advertisement popped onto the screen! A million profanities were hurled at the technical staff! Immediately the technical glitch was corrected and the important frame was back in action. As the replay stopped to the moment where Pathan’s bat was on the line and the bails were off the stumps, the crowd erupted in every sense of the word. Even the cops lining the aisles couldn’t help smiling.

MI surely would win from here was what everyone thought. But how wrong was everyone! Dogra hit a couple of sixes and a boundary and everyone was reminded that the match is not over until the last ball is bowled!
RR needed19 off the last 12 balls and Zaheer Khan bowled a fantastic over conceding just 7 runs. The atmosphere in the crowd was one of excitement and anxiety mixed together. Some worried MI fans (me included) were standing quietly, oblivious to animated fans and the noise. I remember saying to the guy next to me – A wicket on the first delivery would turn the things in MI’s favor.
Malinga was gonna bowl the final over. I was standing on my chair just like the people in front of me ignoring the cops who told us to sit down. The crowd started chanting M-A-L-I-N-G-A, M-A-L-I-N-G-A. Malinga produced a superb run out off his own bowling and we went up in unison. The whole of Brabourne went crazy.

Malinga came steaming in for the second delivery and Uniyal’s stumps went for walk. Every MI fan celebrated wildly. I hi-fived with unknown people and saw similar scenes around me. This is a beauty of watching cricket live in a stadium…Strangers suddenly become friends. Nothing compares with it and nothing would ever.

Soon the match headed for an amazing finish, a finish that everyone hopes for when they enter a cricket stadium. 6 needed of the last ball! What a thriller this was!!…Once again Malinga was impeccably accurate with his blockhole and RR could manage just a single. MI won by 4 runs! Crowd was now dancing everywhere they could find a space! Prashant, Hemant, Manish, Amit and me couldn’t speak was everyone had nearly lost their voice. We just danced and hugged each other.

Happily we exited the stadium not just because MI won the match but the way the game went down to the wire. 1500 bucks for such a thriller was a bargain.
Just across the stadium, the Marine drive was lined with the tired cricket fans enjoying the gentle breeze thinking about the day and chatting about the awesome turning points in the match.

I thought about how amazing a concept IPL was. Action packed cricket lasting just 4 hours and with the music, awesome management, IPL surely has completely transformed watching cricket live in the stadium. It is complete entertainment and good fun day out for everyone. As Ayaz Memon put it, IPL is more gender friendly. More females can be seen at the stadium which was not the case a few years ago. IPL is not only a day of interesting cricket, it is a party - a celebration where even if your team turns up on the losing side, it is at least certain you had pretty good time at the stadium with all the music and power cricket. My friend, Amit Majhi made a wonderful point when he said that our corporate team outings should include going to the IPL matches instead of the boring one day trips to Essel World or some places on the outskirts of Pune. In fact arranging such event is very easier coz all you have to do is to book tickets and the transportation and that’s it. IPL will take care of the entertainment part. (Note to self – Suggest this idea at the next BU meeting).

That night when we sat in the Volvo, I thought about the day. “Perfect” was the only word that came to mind! I mean everything was clockwork perfect right from the start of the day at 530 am in the morning till the time we were back home at 2 am!

For those of you who haven’t yet watched the IPLs, I would suggest at least one match live and you will know what I mean!